Every U.S. president since George Washington has turned to advisors before addressing the American public. With the dawn of radio, then television, and now the Internet, the importance of strategic communication has grown exponentially and become a staple of every administration’s success. Since President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration in the 1950s, having an official speechwriter on staff has been the norm. It would be impossible for a president to create all original content and still perform their day-to-day duties. And American presidents are not an anomaly, this is how it works all around the world.
Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin was credited with authoring a controversial New York Times op-ed addressing the American public about the events unfolding in Syria. Ketchum, a public relations firm and Omnicom Group subsidiary, confirmed to BuzzFeed today that they pitched and placed the piece. They indirectly denied ghostwriting it, but there has been widespread speculation that they were more involved in authoring the editorial than they are leading on to. The timing and controversial nature of the piece has brought the ethics of ghostwriting into question in a way that traditional presidential speeches have not.
It raises several important questions. Here are a few:
- Is ghostwriting a necessary and ethical practice, or dishonest by nature?
- Does approving and adopting a message justify taking credit for it, even if the originator allows it?
- Does the public have a right to assume that the content they consume is created by those credited for it and delivering it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts or any additional questions that come to mind.